War For Education27 September 2010
Srinagar: Govt has wrongly linked education with normalcy but Geelani stretched it too far At a time when life in Kashmir still hangs by separatist calendars and curfew-breaks, the idea of selling the school activity as normalcy is preposterous. Doubly so was the egotist reaction from Syed Ali Geelani who surprisingly asked parents not to send their children to school. While the government is wrongly linking education to normalcy, which should be the outcome of effective administration, Geelani is trying to showcase his support base by calling a boycott of schooling. However there are genuine questions that need be asked to the government. Was it possible for parents to see off their wards when even most of the ministerís colleagues were not able to send children to school? Even more crucial question is who would stick his neck out when some boys are shown on television burning down their books and saying Azadi would set right what may go wrong by longer breaks in education. An employee who has been hardly attending his duties for past months, at times beaten by cops, cannot be expected to herd his children to school and wring his hands in anxiety till they return. Majority of Kashmiris doubtless want the education to be kept out of separatist campaigns but they surely donít want to be sandwiched between the war of wits that is going on between the government and the separatists. When the government remains afraid of the same people that voted it to power, the situation needs more than a kneejerk response. The ongoing turmoil is not a superficial trouble; it represents a deep seated conflict that is largely about the aspirations not grievances. Had it not been so, people would have stoned separatists for locking down schools for whole summer. Moreover, the democratic code demands wise moves from the government. Strict curfew, promise of security and the suggestion that the parents could stay with kids in schools is a louder recognition of law-and-order breakdown; in fact the law and order had been in disarray for past nearly four months. The government, therefore, should not jump over sterile ideas in order to bypass the right path. And the right path is to start an internal outreach process that would see people getting maximum relief in the form of soft policing, withdrawal of cases against students and political interactions with the youth. At the same time, the separatist leadership particularly S A Geelani too should not allow the his detractors in Delhi to drum up his calls as Talibanization. It is a fact that he asked people not to send their wards to school. This fact got splashed across world media. None in the world is bothered to dig deep and see why Geelani said so. He should not have allowed himself into a trap. While Geelani must remain cautious as he charts out his future course, the authorities in Srinagar must understand that Education is a fundamental right and the state government is constitutionally bound to ensure it by creating right conditions. Curiously, the government wants to create right conditions through resumption of class work even as the people still defy such efforts by shutdown and sporadic protests. For every conflict situation, Education like other social activities can follow normalcy, it cannot precede it. In its eagerness to show the separatists in bad light the government should not put the cart before the horse.